The area was perfect for a good relaxation from the long and harsh journey through the Si Wong Desert. There was a high natural waterfall with sparse grasses growing from it. Thick, water-filled clouds traveled through the blue sky, gracing everyone with their return. The temperature was perfect, not too hot, not too cold. Just right for comfort. It was even comfortable for those who wanted to read maps and kick their feet in the water.
"HA HA HA HA!" Aang laughed as he put from his neck down into an ice cube and floated across the waters.
Deidara sat on the side lines, looking for the perfect soil to make clay with. He kept accidentally getting soaked by some of the ones who loved making big splashes.
"No. No. Nope... EW! Definitely not." Deidara said as he searched the ground for clay materials, coming across the common 'useless dirt' and the rare pieces of dung from wild animals.
Katara, on top of the waterfall, made a mad dash for edge with a large grin. She leaped off the ledge.
"WATERBENDING BOMB!" Katara shouted.
With the help of her Waterbending, she splashed in, creating a huge wave. The wave sent Aang flying out of the water, shattering his ice suit. It even soaked Toph, Sokka, Deidara, and Sokka's maps. Aang landed next to Sokka and Toph and laughed.
"Will you watch where you are splashing, hm?" Deidara asked.
Sokka held up his soaked maps in annoyance.
"Sure, five thousand year-old maps from the spirit library. Just splash some water on 'em." Sokka said sarcastically.
"Sorry." Katara said as she ringed her hair out.
Katara took a stance and Waterbended the water out of the soaked maps and parchments.
"So, did you figure out what route we're going to take?" Aang asked.
Sokka examined the map. He pointed to several places on the map as he spoke.
"Okay, we just got out of the desert, so we must be around here. And we need to go to Ba Sing Se, which is here. It looks like the only passage connecting the south to the north is this sliver of land called the Serpent's Pass." Sokka said.
"You sure that's the best way to go?" Toph asked.
"It's the only way. I mean, it's not like we have Appa to fly us there." Sokka said just for Katara to shot him a glare.
"Shush up about Appa. Can't you at least try to be sensitive?" Katara scolded.
Aang's face became a bit downcasted at the thought. Appa, his friend since the day he got him from the Eastern Air Temple, was still missing.
"Katara, it's okay. I know I was upset about losing Appa before, but I just want to focus on getting to Ba Sing Se and telling the Earth King about the solar eclipse." Aang said rather calmly.
"Oh... Well, okay. I'm glad you're doing better." Katara said in surprise.
"Then to Ba Sing Se we go. No more distractions." Sokka said.
"Hello there refugees!"
"So much for no distractions, hm..." Deidara muttered.
Before the group was three refugees. A women who looked pregnant, her husband, who greeted himself as Tahn, and another woman who appeared to be Tahn's sister, who greeted herself as Song.
"So, you guys are headed to Ba Sing Se, too?" Aang asked.
"Sure are. We're trying to get there before my wife Ying has her baby." Tahn said.
"Great! We can travel through the Serpent's Pass together." Katara said.
The three refugees gasped in shock as if a taboo had been spoken.
"The Serpent's Pass? Only the truly desperate take that deadly route!" Ying said.
"Deadly route... GREAT pick Sokka!" Toph said sarcastically and punched Sokka.
"Well, we are desperate." Sokka said.
"Not THAT desperate, moron." Deidara said shooting a small glare at Sokka.
"You should come with us to Full Moon Bay. Ferries take refugees across the lake. It's the fastest way to Ba Sing Se." Tahn said.
"And it's hidden, so the Fire Nation can't find it." Ying said.
"Let's see... peaceful ferry ride or deadly pass?" Katara mused.
At Full Moon Bay...
The Earthbender guards opened the wall for the group to enter. The ferry port was over filled with several hundred people. Some of which were crying newborn babies and weary mothers. Deidara has seen this sight before on a smaller scale from skirmishes with the Hidden Sand Village. The outcome of both were the same, families torn apart, civilians forced to flee, black markets, and unstable atmospheres. This time, it was like someone had taken the half filled balloon and filled it with more air to it's maximum fill. This sight was ten times larger than the ones back at home from skirmishes.
"I can't believe how many people's lives have been uprooted by the Fire Nation." Katara said.
"Like us, they are all looking for a better life in the safety of Ba Sing Se." Tahn said.
"HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?! NO VEGETABLES ON THE FERRY!"
Deidara turned around to see a cabbage merchant standing before a noble who seemed to be the one running the ferry tickets and services.
"ONE CABBAGE SLUG CAN RUIN THE ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM THAT IS BA SING SE! SECURITY!" The ticket lady shouted.
Deidara's eyes widened at what came out for security. It was a mash up between a bear and a platypus. The strange bear stormed into the cabbages like a wild animal and mutilated the cabbages. The cabbage merchant was traumatized by the sight of his cabbages being destroyed.
"MY CABBAGES!" The cabbage merchant screamed in horror as the actual security came out and carried him away.
"NEXT!" The ticket lady shouted.
"Shessh. What a wench." Deidara muttered.
Deidara then noticed it was his group's turn and went forward.
"Uh, four tickets to Ba Sing Se." Aang said rather nervously.
"Passports?" The ticket lady asked.
"We were never told we needed them." Aang said.
"Don't you see? He's the Avatar!" Sokka said.
"Pff! I see FIFTY Avatars a day. Not a very original costume by the way. And NO animals allowed same goes for clay!" The ticket lady said.
"How?" Deidara asked.
"When you live in the Earth Kingdom capital for as long as me, you know the smell of every form of earth." The ticket lady said, "Do I need to get security?"
"That isn't necessary!" Aang said and backed off.
"NEXT!" The ticket lady shouted.
"Move aside Twinkle Toes." Toph said as she walked up to the ticket lady with a document, "My name is Toph Beifong and I need five tickets to Ba Sing Se."
"The golden seal of the flying boar! It is my pleasure to help anyone of the Beifong family.", The ticket lady said as she bowed to Toph.
"It is your pleasure. As you can see, these three imbeciles are my valets, and this one is my personal guard." Toph said first gesturing to Aang, Sokka, and Katara, who were hugging each other, then gestured to Deidara.
"But the animal and the clay..." The ticket lady started.
"The animal is my seeing-eye lemur and the clay is Deidara's choice of weapon and art material in his spare time." Toph said, "Can't take away his means of protecting me."
"Well, normally it's only one ticket per passport, but this document is so official... I guess it's worth five tickets." The ticket lady said and stamped their tickets.
"Thank you ma'm." Toph said as she took her passport and the tickets.
The group walked away with Sokka laughing. Deidara gave Sokka a raised eye brow.
"We scammed her good!" Sokka chuckled.
Deidara took his ticket from Toph.
"If you need me, I am gonna go to the ferry. I will see you there." Deidara said.
"Okay. Stay safe, kiddo.", Sokka said.
"Where I am from, I am not a kid, hm." Deidara said with narrowed eyes.
"Are you suggesting to me that you're an old man? Cause if you are, you're not very convincing." Sokka asked.
Deidara's face darkened.
"Sokka, shut up right now..." Deidara warned.
"Okay, fine. See you on the ferry." Sokka said.
Deidara walked to the ferry loading area. He nearly got robbed of his clay and ticket a few times, but managed to throw off the thieves with some basic movements. Deidara scoffed at how pathetic they were. He continued to the ferry loading point, muttering 'amateurs' under his breath. He showed his ticket to the guards. The guards stepped aside to let Deidara onto the boat. As Deidara got onto the boat, he heard the ticket lady screaming again.
'What is it this time?' Deidara thought and turned around to see Aang arguing with the ticket lady.
Deidara went over to where Aang, Sokka, Toph, Katara, Tahn, Ying, and Song were.
"What's going on?" Deidara asked.
"We have been robbed of everything." Ying said wiping a tear out of her eye, "Avatar Aang is currently trying to reason with the official."
Deidara saw the ticket lady spit on Aang's forehead. Deidara under normal circumstances would not care at all, but right now was different. He walked right up to the ticket lady.
"HEY YOU WRINKLES!" Deidara shouted and flipped a double bird in front of the ticket lady, "THIS IS FOR YOU, HM!"
The ticket lady gasped at the insolence Deidara displayed. Deidara smirked a cocky smile and walked away, back to the group. No one, not even the security, noticed a pair of clay spiders skitter across the floor to the ticket lady. As soon as the ticket lady shrieked and stepped on them, the spiders exploded, singeing the ruthless woman.
"So what now?" Deidara asked.
Aang turned to Tahn, Ying, and Song as he wiped the 'denied' from his forehead.
"Don't worry, you'll get to the city safely. I'll lead you through the Serpent's Pass." Aang said.